This video takes a look at the ORGANIC egg industry. Terms like cage free and free range become meaningless when you see how most chickens in industrial farms are raised. The video shows thousands of birds in a huge warehouses and their “outdoor access” is one tiny hole in the wall. 99% of the chicken’s wouldn’t even know the hole existed. So what is an organic egg? The USDA states that organic eggs must be fed with organic feed and use no antibiotics (contrary to popular belief, the USDA does not permit the use of hormones in poultry production. Terms like “hormone-free” are meaningless since no egg producing chickens are given hormones).
After seeing this interesting exposé from the Cornucopia Institute on the organic egg industry, I decided to take a look at their Organic Egg Scorecard where they rate egg producers across the US. The scorecard rates egg farms based on a 22 different factors including, how much actual outdoor space the chickens have, what their indoor space is like, if they have natural light, chicken’s lifespan, and which agency certifies the farm organic. The farms with the highest scores received 5 eggs and the the lowest, 1 egg.
As many of you know, my family does much of our shopping at Trader Joe’s. Sometimes we buy eggs from farmer’s market, sometimes from Trader Joe’s (TJ’s brand Organic, Free Range Large Eggs). As I scanned the report for my eggs, I was shocked to see that they only received a 1 out of 5-egg score. The main reason for this? An unwillingness to share any information as to which farms the eggs come from and how the hens are raised. I understand that Trader Joe’s has an interest in keeping it’s private label brands private, but this is disheartening. I decided to make my concerns known and sent the following message to Trader Joe’s last week:
“We purchase TJ’s brand organic, free range eggs. I recently read the Cornucopia Institute’s Organic Egg Scorecard and was surprised to see that TJ’s eggs received an extremely low score. I understand that it is difficult to disclose information when you have private label products, but it makes me wonder how “organic” the eggs really are. I would appreciate some sort of response to reassure me that your eggs are produced in the most ethical and best standards. Also, I would like information as to if the eggs are purchased from small farm cooperatives or industrial farms and what sort of access they have to the outdoors. If you are not able to provide any information to counteract the report I read, I will have to assume it is accurate. My family does 95% of our shopping at Trader Joe’s and absolutely love your stores. Thank you in advance. I look forward to your reply.”
message sent to Trader Joe’s via their website “Contact Us” form
I haven’t heard back yet, but I will let you all know what I find out. The moral of this story is to try to buy eggs from farms who are open and happy to discuss their farming practices. This may include getting eggs from a co-op, farmer’s market, or a local family who raises chickens. Another option is to raise chickens yourself. Someday I hope to be able to have fresh eggs from my very own backyard.
For a look at the full report from the Cornucopia Institute, click here: Scrambled Eggs – Separating Factory Farm Egg Production from Authentic Organic Agriculture
1. Eggs last 4-5 weeks from the packing date (typically about 3 weeks after you buy them).
2. A large egg contains 70 calories.
3. The average chicken lays 250-300 eggs per year!
4. Contrary to the grassy picture on many cartons, “Cage-Free” does not mean that hens are kept outside. Cage-Free hens may roam in a building or room (located within a barn or poultry house) and have unlimited access to food and water.
6. To be considered “organic,” hens are fed chicken feed without conventional pesticides, fungicides, herbicides or fertilizers. Organic designation does not mean the hens are cage free.
7. Both the upper and lower beaks of commercial hens are trimmed by a cauterizing machine to prevent them from pecking one another.
8. Hens which eat only vegetable foods and vegetarian feed are designated “vegetarian eggs.”
9. As a hen get older, her egg size increases.
10. Fresh eggs which are hard-boiled, are more difficult to peel
11. Since 1997, egg consumption is on the rise. In 2007, the average American consumes 259 eggs per year.